Last week was New York City Climate Week and I had the chance to attend a very interesting event dealing with energy and the way we use it. This blog post is a summary of what I learned in the event as well as a personal reflection on it.
The first event was titled Market Makers: Developing and Deploying Energy Efficiency in NYC. The panel included Colin Smart from Con Edison, Allen Freifeld from Viridity Energy and Mei Shibata from ThinkEco. The conversation covered the way to achieve energy efficiency, as well as reduce the peaks of energy needed in the summer. Mr. Smart from Con Edison said that one of their biggest challenges is air conditioning units. These are a challenge mainly because it is a coincidental demand that happens when the weather gets really warm. According to him, there are currently 6.1 millions of AC units in NYC and over a million more coming! There is a need and an opportunity for innovation in order to smooth out those “peaks” in demand. Some of the progress that has been done by some buildings is making ice when the demand for energy is low (i.e. at night) and cooling down the building during the day by blowing fans over the ice. This way the building is reducing its energy demands during peak hours.
The panel then welcomed Mei Shibata from ThinkEco a start-up business that is working on the Modlet, a plug-in device that can help you use your energy at home more efficiently. Basically, the Modlet allows you to turn off devices when they are not in use. A lot of energy is drawn by electronics if they are always plugged in without being used. You can also control the Modlet remotely from work if you forgot to turn off a device before leaving home. The main thing right now is to educate the society on the importance of using energy more efficiently, For example, turning off the air conditioning when you are not home is a good way to reduce your energy demand. Or turning off unnecessary lighting during the day is another way to contribute to a lower demand.
The last panelist was Allen Friefeld from Viridity Energy. Viridity Energy is trying to change passive electricity consumer into active ones. You might wonder how one can do that, it I fairly simple. The price that we pay for energy is an average of the constantly changing price of electricity. Basically, when the demand for energy is higher, the price goes up and so on. Viridity let its costumers know when the price of energy gets higher so they can reduce their demand. They can increase their demand again when the price of electricity start going down again. The user can also get a payback for choosing not to consume at peak time. Viridity clients currently are large buildings. I thought the idea of monitoring the change in price and to help customers make a choice on when to consume energy was very fascinating. It once again relies on people being sensible to the cost and demand of energy.
I thought that this event was inspiring and encouraging. In different ways, those three companies are working really hard at reducing energy demand and making consumers more aware of their energy consumption and how to reduce and control it. Be making people more informed and giving them the tools we can achieve a better energy usage.